United States consumer confidence surged in January to its highest level in five months, rallying hopes for a recovery from recession this year. 'Things are improving,' said Kevin Logan, market economist at investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. 'This will reinforce other people's belief that the economy is turning.' The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said yesterday its index of consumer confidence reached 97.3 this month, beating Wall Street forecasts. The figure for December was 94.6, up from 84.9 in November. The index is compiled from a survey of 5,000 US households. Confidence slumped to an eight-year low in November after a wave of redundancies in the wake of the September 11 attacks. 'While the economy has not turned around yet, the worst may well be over,' said Lynn Franco, director of the board's Consumer Research Centre. Growth figures for the final three months of last year are due out today. Third-quarter GDP shrank 0.4 per cent quarter on quarter and economists expect negative figures today. Locally, the Better Hong Kong Foundation's annual business survey found only 38 per cent of respondents were positive about the business environment this year, compared with 84 per cent last year. Hong Kong also scored a low rating with the 80 per cent of respondents planning new investments. Of those, 59 per cent were interested in investing in Shanghai, 44 per cent in Beijing and 42 per cent in Hong Kong.